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Apartment Building with Grocery Store Proposed for Ballston Macy’s

Plans are taking shape for an apartment building set to replace the Macy’s store in Ballston.

Insight Property Group proposes to demolish the long-time department store and vacant office building at 685 N. Glebe Road, in the heart of Ballston. In its place would go a 16-story, 555-unit apartment complex atop a planned grocery store.

The developer plans to designate 236 units as affordable through the use of a novel zoning tool, and requests the flexibility to possibly dedicate almost half the square footage toward elder care.

The proposed project “will complete the redevelopment of this section of Ballston as well as complement the adjacent Ballston Quarter development,” write land use attorneys Nan Walsh and Andrew Painter, in a letter to the county.

The building was marketed for sale in the spring of 2020. Last summer, the County Board approved an extension until 2023 for the owner to file development plans. Aspects of these designs were first reported by UrbanTurf earlier this month.

Insight will “provide a much desired grocery store and new residential units in a building with high-quality architecture that is within short walking distance to many community amenities and transit options,” said their attorneys, from the land use firm Walsh Colucci.

At 563,336 square feet, the complex would be 198 feet tall and have 41,500 square feet of ground floor retail space. Residences would be split between a northern tower, with an entrance on Wilson Blvd, and a southern tower, with an entrance on Glebe Road. The towers would be built in two phases, UrbanTurf reported.

“The two portions of the building will have distinct, but complementary, architectural features that will form a unified composition,” write Walsh and Painter.

Insight requests “potential flexibility” to convert 201,500 square feet into elder care uses, they said.

The main grocery store entrance will be on Wilson Blvd, and the store will have 148 parking spaces — split between underground and second-floor parking. Residents will have 241 underground spaces.

An “underutilized, ‘back of house’ alley” will be transformed into a “more inviting, safe, curbless shared space for pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles,” the letter said.

Wilson Blvd and N. Glebe Road will remain largely the same, save for upgraded sidewalks. Insight will also provide bicycle parking and public art contributions.

As for affordable housing, the company aims proposes using a mechanism in the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Form Based Code to transfer density and development rights from a Columbia Pike apartment complex it owns to the Ballston site.

To do so, it needs the county to designate the Haven Apartments (5100 7th Road S.), which are garden apartments, as historically important.

That’s because the mechanism it wants to use currently allows developers to transfer density from two other garden apartments, with historic designations, to anywhere in the county. In exchange, developers commit to preserve the buildings, renovate the units and keep rent affordable.

The transfer “will ensure the preservation of committed affordable housing units and architecturally significant buildings in the Columbia Pike corridor,” the lawyers said.

Insight acquired Haven in January of 2017 for $20 million, according to the company’s website. Since then, it has rebranded the property, renovated the units, exteriors and landscaping, and replaced the property management.

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